Legislation aimed at deterring illegal forms of trespass while protecting the welfare of animals in abattoirs, knackeries, intensive egg and poultry farms and piggeries through increased inspection powers will be introduced into State Parliament.
The legislation has been prepared in response to incidents last year in which individuals trespassed on agricultural land for the purpose of drawing public attention to animal husbandry practices they oppose.
The proposed reforms amend three separate Acts, namely the Animal Welfare Act 2002, Criminal Code (WA) and Restraining Orders Act 1997.
At present, the Animal Welfare Act does not allow for monitoring or compliance of animal welfare, and only permits inspectors to enter a food production place either by consent or where the inspector reasonably suspects that an offence has been, is being, or is likely to be committed.
Under these amendments, designated inspectors will have a general right of inspection at intensive food production facilities.
The amendments to the Criminal Code and the Restraining Orders Act are aimed at deterring trespass on land used for animal source food production and slaughter.
The Bill increases the applicable criminal penalties and improves the availability of misconduct restraining orders in specific circumstances. The proposed maximum penalty for the new offence of aggravated trespass is two years’ imprisonment and a fine of $24,000. This is double the usual maximum penalty for trespass, reflecting the seriousness of the conduct.
As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:
“This Bill has been prepared in response to a number of incidents where individuals have trespassed on land used for commercial animal food production, and interfered with those businesses, purportedly to draw attention to inhumane animal husbandry practices.
“Unlawful behaviour cannot be tolerated. We need to protect our agricultural sector, and in particular, regional farming families, from the adverse economic and personal effects of this type of trespass.
“However, the WA community cares very strongly about animal welfare. There is a clear need to maintain community confidence in the animal welfare practices employed by our agricultural sector.”
As stated by Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan:
“Modernising our animal welfare inspection regime means people can no longer use lack of transparency in abattoirs and other intensive production facilities as an excuse for their illegal actions.
“A strong and transparent animal welfare system is critical to the long-term sustainability of our livestock sector.”